Ashley Franklin

Of course, hard work, but LUCK!

Hey, writer! Clearly we work hard to hone our crafts. Some of us spend years in the query trenches. Many of us spend a great deal of money  on critiques, books, conferences, and courses. Does that guarantee our success? Absolutely not.
When you are frustrated, and maybe even irritable, with where you are in your writing journey, please don’t forget how subjective this all is.
I’m still toiling away even though I have an agent now. (See, getting an agent is just one hurdle of many. It’s not the golden ticket to being published.)
You may feel that you’re doing everything right and getting nowhere. You could be write. Despite all of your hard work, you may still need the stars to align and the right editor to champion your work.
Don’t underestimate the role of luck in all of this. Just know that out of 365 days, one of them is likely to be your lucky day.
Let’s keep writing!
 
 

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On being bad at waiting

I suck at waiting. I am crazy impatient. Guess what you can’t be when you’re working towards being a published writer: impatient. I distinctly remember waiting to hear back from agents as being ridiculously agonizing? I had to stop my emails from getting pushed to my phone.
I didn’t know what to expect after I got an agent. I mean, where’s the backdoor guide to what happens between signing with an agent and getting published? I need that. Here’s what I imagined would happen:
 
Yup. My agent would roll out the red carpet that would lead to my publishing dreams. After all, I had made it! I had been noticed and plucked from the eager writer masses.
That’s not what happened at all. There are levels to this! It’s like a tiered claw machine. I am armed with stories, but I have to yet again get noticed and plucked from the (albeit smaller) masses. It’s a mental marathon.
So, no. Having an agent doesn’t mean that you have someone to roll out a red carpet that leads to your publication dreams. It does mean that you have an ally, an ally that helps you swing over alligator moats, bust through drawbridges, and kick down doors. Obviously, those things take time.

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It's not a competition, but it is.

Having a writer friend is awesome when you are a writer as well. You have someone who understands what it’s like to work endlessly throughout the day and still sometimes feel like you’ve done nothing. You have someone to maybe bounce ideas off of. You have someone who knows when you need a little extra support and when you need space to vent.
It can be quite the emotional ride when you are sharing in someone else’s successes and setbacks. There may even come a time when you have to admit that you are a tad bit jealous of someone else’s success.
After all, haven’t you worked just as hard, if not harder? Haven’t you attended just as many workshops, conferences, and inspired gatherings? How many agents are even still open to queries? How many books do publishers even want to publish this year? What about you? When is it going to be your turn? It’s not fair!
Well, you’re right. It’s not.
The weirdest thing happened when I signed with my agent. I was over the moon excited, but I also felt a bit guilty. While at first I thought that was crazy weird, maybe it’s not. I’m a part of several Facebook writing and kidlit groups, and I’ve seen people post about the hundreds of agents they’ve queried and the years they’ve spent writing and revising their masterpieces.
I wanted them to win too. That’s when I made a realization that I probably should have made earlier on. This is a competition, even if we don’t want it to be. There are several finite variables on the path to publishing, and there are a great deal of us with the same goal.
There’s nothing that I can change about that. But, there is still something that I can hope for. I hope that when those moments of self-doubt, frustration, and jealousy do happen, that each of us will recognize them for what they are–moments.
Those moments will pass. Don’t let them distract you from your upcoming moment when it is your time to shine. That’s the beauty of a spotlight. It highlights us at our best. You know what they say, the best is yet to come. Don’t forget that.
That’s a reminder for me just as much as it is for anyone else.
 

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Good critiques matter!

 

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A critique’s purpose is to help. Don’t get caught up in your feelings.

 
If you’re a writer, and you’re on the fence about sharing your work, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my students:

Get over yourself!

Why? A good critique can help you take your writing to the next level. Yes, many talk about the overall importance of critiques. Let’s be real. If getting high quality feedback wasn’t important, people wouldn’t be willing to pay for it. With so many writers wanting and willing to get their work read, you’d think paid critiques wouldn’t be so popular.

So, why are they? It could be for the simple fact that people expect detailed, thorough, comprehensive feedback when they do critiques. Paying for one increases your chances of that actually happening. Hey, I may jump on that bandwagon years down the line. I have years of teaching and tutoring experience. Still, I wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay me for a critique until I have some published books under my belt. (On that note, if you do pay for a critique, make sure it’s from someone who has a solid reputation and some credentials to stand on.)

Still keeping it real, some critiques you get during your writing journey are likely to be garbage. The comments may be super vague. That’s a totally appropriate reason to give your critiquer the virtual stank eye, but resist the urge. If you give an awesome critique of that person’s manuscript, you just may encourage him/her to up their game in the future. After all, we’re writers. Aren’t we supposed to grow in our craft?

 

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What's the tub journal I keep talking about?

Okay, so if you’ve been following me on Twitter for more than a week, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point you’ve seen me mention a tub journal. I’m sure that many of you can relate to feeling like you have to multitask or things will never get done. Busy parents, I know you especially know that trips to the bathroom are sometimes all the alone time that you get. (Let’s be real. Some of our kids hunt us down in the bathroom too.)
Some people say they get their best ideas when in the shower. My most dominant shower thought is something along the lines of “Ugh, what am I going to do with my hair today?” Then is all spirals down to wondering what the kids are doing and what snacks need to be replenished, and what’s in the fridge to even cook, etc. Clearly, the shower isn’t my ideal clear thinking space.
Behold! The tub journal was born due to a lack of time, selective focus, and ideas that never quit. In reality, it’s a legal pad that I jot down all of my ideas. I don’t use it anywhere else unless I’m typing up my notes off of it. That’s the thing, since the tub journal can get wet at any moment, I always make sure to type up my notes before the next tub journal session. There’s no need to take a chance of good ideas getting washed away.
What about you? Do you have any odd note-taking habits? Surely I’m not the only one.
 
 

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Note to self:Don’t get lost in animal stories.

I feel like I am truly getting closer to my dream. Thanks to my overactive imagination, I can almost smell the picture book newness with my name on it. In real life, while I’m waiting to hear back from publishers, I am continuing to write. After all, that’s what you do to avoid stalking your email. Seems logical to me.
I’m drafting 4 new picture book manuscripts at once. (I can’t think one story at a time.) I realized that 3 of them have a non-human main character. For me, this is problematic.
I grew up loving animal stories. They were my comfort zone. Why? They felt like a safe alternative since I didn’t see much of me in the stories I loved. I’ve said before that I had copies of folk tales and all that. Still, I could only relate to them but so much.
Today, I made a vow to draft a manuscript focusing on a human character for every non-human character driven story. That might not mean much to you, but it does to me. To me, it matters. For the little girl whose imagination readily filled with White characters and animals but struggled to imagine someone who looked like her doing similar things, it matters. For the little girl who will always remember being told that she could only be the neighbor or the dog when playing “house” at school because she didn’t match, it matters a lot.
 
 

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Saving a Manuscript

I know that some manuscripts just don’t work no matter how hard you try. For me, it’s one particular manuscript that I wrote just shy of a year ago. I’m on like version 10. I know some writers talk about doing upwards of 30 drafts. To me, that’s a bit much. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of revision. Heck, I teach English comp! I just think there are sometimes better ways to use your time.
I was totally focused on this manuscript for quite some time. I refused to work on any other ideas except for it. I feel like I stifled my own creativity due to my being stubborn and forcing the manuscript to work.
So, what’s different now? Two things:

  1. I’ve taken two writing courses since I last touched this manuscript.
  2. I made a notebook specifically for it.

The benefits of having taken two writing courses is obvious. I feel better equipped with the notebook that I made. It’s really simple. It’s a 1-inch, 3-ring binder. In it, I have the following:

  • All versions of the manuscript
  • Lined paper
  • Blank paper (for doodling when I’m stuck)
  • My list from the last PiBoIdMo Challenge (to see if those ideas inspire some newness)

Will this help me whip my manuscript into shape? I have no idea. But, you’re on this journey with me, and we’ll see what happens.
 

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My first SCBWI meeting

Do you SCBWI? I do. Okay, I just went to my first meeting out in Madisonville, La.on Saturday. I had no idea what to expect, so I did the most logical thing I could think of: I convinced my husband that he wanted to go. He went alright. He happens to know everyone everywhere, so he conjured up a friend and left after a grand total of maybe 10 minutes. But hey, spousal support is cool, so I’ll take it.
Anyway, it was pretty chill. I easily work myself up about social situations, but I’m fine once I’m actually in them. I am the queen of overthinking. We sat in a giant rectangle. There were introductions. There were announcements. There were readings. It was nowhere near as scary or intimidating as I thought it was going to be.
I met some really nice people though. The folks there are all at different points in their writing journeys, and it was just nice to see other writers in real life. Most of the writers I know I only know via social media, so I saw real people instead of virtual people.
Tanget 1: That sounds like an odd twist on Pinocchio or something, doesn’t it?
Tangent 2: I really thought life now would be more like the Jetsons. I am so disappointed.
Tangent 3: “Virtual people” instantly made me think of the Jetsons. Why does nothing make me think of the Flintstones?
So anyway, it was just nice to be surrounded by like-minded folk trying to navigate successful writing projects and/or writing careers.

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Write? Get an accountability partner.

As writers, many of us want the same things. We want to get published. We want that feeling of knowing we have completed something that many others dream of. While on our writing journeys, many of us also want critique partners. (I too have to round some new ones up from time to time.) But, I think an accountability partner is an overlooked gem of an idea.
My accountability partner and I keep in touch weekly. We email each other our goals for the week and do a follow-up once the week is done to see how things went. It’s pretty much a “Way to go, you!” or a “Hey, life happens. Try again next week.” type of thing.
Does this seem overly basic? It’s not. With critique groups, seminars, webinars, conferences, contests, and oodles of other obligations we take on as writers, it’s nice to have someone you can go to that simply encourages you to tackle all of your obligations like a boss. 
If nothing else, you don’t want to look like a chump in front of someone else, so that also increases the chance that you’ll be more productive than usual.
Go on and get some accountability. You might like it.

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An agent? For me? Pinch me!

Breaking news: Today, this happened:


It’s true! I now have an agent, and I think we fit together fabulously well. I feel so blessed and fortunate to have hit such a huge milestone in my writing journey.
*Disclaimer, I don’t usually make multiple posts in a week. It’s just been that kind of week. Don’t abandon ship if you think I’m going to bombard you with posts. I won’t. I promise.*
I know that this is big, and I am truly humbled because I have not been on this journey for nearly as long as others have been. The first book that I bought related to this business was the 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. Yes, that was last year. Look at how worn it is though. Clearly, I got my money’s worth.worn book
In total, I queried less than 10 agents since I started. I know that I am one of the lucky ones, and I don’t take that for granted. While some prefer not to go the agented route, this was definitely something that I wanted from the very beginning. I now feel like I have some muscle-a strong and super efficient support system. I feel like

This. Just. Got. Real.

 
 
 

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